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Newport man charged in Blaze Bernstein killing has new defense lawyer

Newport man charged in Blaze Bernstein killing has new defense lawyer
Samuel Woodward of Newport Beach leaves a court hearing Aug. 22. He is charged with murdering Blaze Bernstein in January. (File Photo / AP)

Samuel Woodward, the Newport Beach man accused of murdering former high school classmate Blaze Bernstein, has a new defense lawyer.

Robert Kohler of the Orange County public defender’s office is now listed in court records as Woodward’s attorney. Woodward previously retained private attorney Edward Munoz to defend him against allegations that he fatally stabbed Bernstein, 19, in January and buried him in a shallow grave at Borrego Park in Foothill Ranch.

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The reason for Woodward’s attorney switch was unclear. Munoz and the public defender’s office declined to comment.

Woodward, 21, is facing a charge of murder with a sentencing enhancement allegation of a hate crime. Prosecutors believe Woodward killed Bernstein because Bernstein was gay.

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Woodward has pleaded not guilty. He is next scheduled to appear in Orange County Superior Court on Nov. 9.

City News Service contributed to this report.

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